Los Angeles a busy place for NFL on Saturday night

After all of those years eschewing the Los Angeles area, the NFL now has two teams there. On Saturday, both will host preseason games on what many say is the only August weekend that even slightly matters.

The Rams host the Texans in an afternoon game, and four hours later the Chargers entertain New Orleans.

There’s actually some intrigue in Chargers-Saints, particularly for an exhibition game. For the second straight season, the teams went through two days of joint practices at the Chargers’ training camp complex in Orange County ahead of the preseason game.

Saints star quarterback Drew Brees once was San Diego’s starter, then was displaced by Philip Rivers. Brees has gone on to wild success and a Super Bowl championship in New Orleans, while Rivers has been a fixture behind center for the Chargers in San Diego and now in L.A.

“It was a tough set of circumstances, obviously, because they drafted him in 2004 to basically take my job,” Brees said on the Saints’ website. “I think everyone always tried to pit us against each other and couldn’t figure out how we could be friends or good teammates to one another in the quarterback room when we were having that type of competition, but we were.”

And they still are friends as well as supreme competitors.

“There’s no denying it was somewhat awkward,” Rivers said. “We both wanted what the other person was trying to get, and keep it from him. But at the same time we pulled for one another.

“It may not make sense, and I’m not sure any of that necessarily does. That’s kind of the way it went in those two years. I tried to be the first person to high-five him after a touchdown. But at the same time I wanted to be out there playing.”

Neither will be playing very long Saturday.

The Rams’ glamorous offseason additions are expected to play for the first time. Coach Sean McVay has been exceedingly cautious about using his starters in the preseason and could continue to hold out some veteran players, but receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are likely to see their first action.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson did not play in a 33-7 loss at the Rams last season because of a torn ACL, but will get to test himself against a Los Angeles defense still attempting to identify a starting outside linebacker. The Texans scored at least 33 points in each of Watson’s last five starts as a rookie, but failed to score more than 17 points in eight of nine games after he was hurt.

MORE INTRIGUE

The biggest topic from the Chiefs’ perspective as they head to Chicago is coach Andy Reid gets to match up with his former offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, now in charge of the Bears.

“I’m proud of him for having the opportunity — I’ve watched his tape and he’s doing some good things with the team,” Reid said. “It’s a little like looking in the mirror when you look at his offense. He’s added a few little wrinkles but a lot of it is pretty similar.”

The Bears were hoping to have first-round draft pick Roquan Smith in his first action, but he barely practiced after ending his holdout. Starters or key players missing the game for certain are LB Leonard Floyd (broken bones in his right hand), and TE Adam Shaheen (right ankle and foot). Also possibly out: CB Prince Amukamara (ankle), DE Akiem Hicks (knee soreness), and TE Dion Sims (concussion).

THE RETURNS

While most fans will focus on the play of the Indianapolis and San Francisco quarterbacks, Andrew Luck and Jimmy Garoppolo, on Saturday, the coaching staffs might look more closely at their revamped secondaries.

The 49ers are eager to see cornerback Richard Sherman make his first appearance since tearing his Achilles tendon last season. The former All-Pro with Seattle joined San Francisco in the offseason.

“I’m more concerned about my game shape and making sure I can still go every single play because I haven’t played (since November),” Sherman said.

First-year Colts coach Frank Reich will get his first glimpse of his projected starting safety pairing.

Clayton Geathers, who missed most of 2017 after neck surgery, returned from a subsequent knee surgery in Monday night’s loss to Baltimore. Now, Malik Hooker, Indy’s first-round pick in 2017, is expected to make his first start since October after recovering from two torn ligaments in his right knee.

It would be the first time Geathers and Hooker have actually lined up together in game action.

“I’m going to be pretty excited, just from the journey we had,” Hooker said.

HOLD THAT LINE

Cincinnati’s offensive line struggled against the Cowboys last week, which was a bad sign after the Bengals spent the offseason overhauling it. The starting offense managed only two first downs — one on a scramble by Andy Dalton — in three possessions. If the right side of the line struggles again on Sunday vs. Buffalo, changes could be in store, especially at right tackle where Bobby Hart has had problems.

First-round draft pick Josh Allen gets his opportunity to secure the Bills’ starting job after showing progress in accuracy and decision making since the start of training camp. It’ll be Allen’s first start, and comes after the quarterback directed drives to a touchdown and two field goals in a 19-17 win at Cleveland. Allen has yet to face an opponents’ starting defense, and he’ll be playing behind a retooled offensive line that struggled against the Browns’ pass rush.

Coach Sean McDermott said some starters will play into the third quarter, though he didn’t specify QBs.

BACK TO PITTSBURGH

Mike Vrabel started his NFL career with the Steelers as the 91st pick overall in the 1997 draft. He returns with the Titans looking for his first victory as a head coach.

Vrabel says he kind of stumbled out of the blocks in Pittsburgh where he learned how to be a professional player from the likes of Dermontti Dawson, Mark Bruener, Jerome Bettis and Greg Lloyd.

“My first apartment was next door neighbors with Greg Lloyd,” Vrabel said. “I’m like going out after games and I’m like this is crazy, like I’m working out with this guy. So there were a lot of great pros on that team, Hall of Famers … They really showed the younger players how to be a professional one, how to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and what it meant to the Rooney family to represent that organization.”

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will make his lone exhibition appearance eager to “knock the rust off.” The 36-year-old modified his diet during the offseason and arrived in training camp noticeably slimmer, though don’t expect him to start ad-libbing in the pocket as he did a decade ago. Roethlisberger is content to let his right arm and his brain do most of the work.

RYAN VS. RAMSEY

All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey gets his first look at one of the many NFL quarterbacks he ripped recently.

Ramsey is back from a one-week suspension and slated to play when the Jaguars host Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.

Ramsey has declined interview requests since rejoining the team Monday. He hasn’t spoken publicly since screaming profanities at media members who recorded a post-practice altercation involving defensive ends Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue. Three days later, GQ magazine released a Ramsey story in which he called Buffalo rookie Josh Allen “trash” and said Ryan was “overrated.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he’ll be looking for his players to show they are game ready against Jacksonville.

“Are we playing with speed, playing with urgency and executing?” Quinn said.

Starters can expect to play “somewhere between three or four series or two quarters,” Quinn added.

Notable exceptions will be standout wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman, who are healthy but will be held out for the third straight week. Quinn also plans to protect them in next week’s final preseason game against Miami.

LOPSIDED

The Ravens have been a bad matchup for the Dolphins, who lost to Baltimore 38-6 in 2016 and 40-0 last year. They meet Saturday night in Miami.

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will see his most extensive action of the preseason. He hasn’t been hit in the first two games.

Newcomer Frank Gore, the NFL’s leading active rusher, is expected to play for the first time this summer.

Miami wants to see more from rookie tight end Mike Gesicki, who is battling for a starting job but has yet to catch a pass.

The Dolphins have allowed 299 yards rushing in the first two exhibition games, including 226 yards at Carolina, and 71 on one play.

For the Ravens, it’s all about the QBs. Joe Flacco has enjoyed a brief but solid preseason, and they’re trying to get Lamar Jackson up to speed, but he has been playing like a rookie and running dangerously. RG3 has been good, but the question is whether the Ravens will keep three QBs. This game might help them make a decision.

The Ravens appear prepared to start rookie Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle, but if he struggles in this game they may have to rethink it.

NO DRESS REHEARSAL LIKELY FOR DAK, ZEKE

The Cowboys could be without all four returning starters on the offensive line for what’s supposed to be the “dress rehearsal” game at home against Arizona on Sunday night. There’s a good chance that means quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott won’t play either.

In Prescott’s case, Dallas had a 16-play drive that went into the second quarter on his third series last week against Cincinnati. Coach Jason Garrett says that longer-than-expected stint also factors into whether he plays against the Cardinals. If Elliott doesn’t play, that means he will skip the entire preseason despite being healthy.

No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen is a game-time decision for Arizona after injuring the thumb on his throwing (right) hand in practice. Sam Bradford, who has completed all seven passes in the preseason, is in line to start again.

If Prescott sits, the Arizona defense likely will go the entire preseason without facing a starting quarterback. San Diego’s Philip Rivers skipped the opener, and Drew Brees sat for New Orleans last week.

___

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Jets’ Siemian (ankle) reportedly headed for MRI

Jets' Siemian (ankle) reportedly headed for MRI

Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian

Jets’ Siemian (ankle) reportedly headed for MRI

Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian sustained an ankle injury and exited the field midway through the second quarter of New York’s Monday night game against the Cleveland Browns, and he didn’t return to action.

The Jets announced in-game that Siemian’s ankle ailment was being evaluated. After the Jets’ 23-3 loss, multiple media outlets reported that Siemian will undergo an MRI exam Tuesday.

Siemian was injured when he was hit by Browns defensive Myles Garrett after throwing a deep incompletion in East Rutherford, N.J. Siemian’s toes pressed into the turf and his left leg twisted as he felt the brunt of the weight of his lower body plus Garrett’s body weight falling on him.

Siemian was able to walk off the field and soon was taken into the locker room for observation. He had completed 3 of 6 passes for 3 yards.

Garrett tweeted postgame, “I want to wish @TrevorSiemian a speedy recovery. We put our bodies on the line every single snap, and I wouldn’t wish an injury on anyone.”

Luke Falk, a former star quarterback at Washington State, replaced Siemian and finished 20 of 25 for 198 yards.

Siemian started Monday because Sam Darnold was out due to mononucleosis.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Raiders to suspend Brown after Mayock altercation

Reports: Raiders to suspend Brown after Mayock altercation

The Oakland

Reports: Raiders to suspend Brown after Mayock altercation

The Oakland Raiders plan to suspend wideout Antonio Brown after he “got into it” with general manager Mike Mayock, multiple outlets reported Thursday.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Mayock didn’t confirm the reports.

“Short and sweet, Antonio Brown is not in the building today,” Mayock said. “He won’t be practicing. I don’t have any more information for you right now. When I have some and it becomes appropriate, you guys will all get it but that’s it for today.”

Head coach Jon Gruden declined to get into details after practice, telling reporters the team would have “an official announcement later.” Brown was officially listed on the injury report as a non-participant, with the designation “not injury related – conduct.”

“Obviously he wasn’t here today, and when we have some information for you, we’ll get it to you,” Gruden said.

Multiple outlets reported Brown had to be held back from Mayock by teammates. NFL Network reported that Brown told Mayock he would hit him in the face, then punted a football and said, “Fine me for that.”

Their exchange occurred Wednesday after Brown went on Instagram and posted a letter he received from Mayock detailing the $53,950 in fines he accrued while missing time in training camp.

Brown wasn’t pleased with the letter, judging by his response. “When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now devil is a lie,” he wrote in the caption. “Everyone got to pay this year so we clear.”

Should the Raiders suspend Brown for conduct detrimental to the team, they could make a case that the guarantees in Brown’s contract should be voided. His contract calls for about $30 million of guaranteed money.

Brown, 31, missed time during the preseason while dealing with blistering feet as a result of a frostbite mishap during cryogenic therapy as well as grievances involving his helmet.

The Raiders open the season Monday night at home against the Denver Broncos. Tyrell Williams, signed in March as a free agent from the Chargers, will presumably be the No. 1 wide receiver.

Asked if the team is prepared to play without Brown, Gruden told reporters, “Yeah, and we’ve been doing that.”

“We have been practicing without him and preparing to play no matter who’s … injured,” Gruden added. “We have to adapt, and unfortunately we had to adapt again today, but we’re really excited about our receiving corps.”

The Raiders acquired Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a trade in March and later signed him to a three-year, $50.125 million contract.

Brown caught at least 100 passes and exceeded 1,200 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons with the Steelers. He appeared in 130 games with Pittsburgh from 2010-18, catching 837 passes for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Rodgers or Mack? Book boosting stars in opener

Rodgers or Mack? Book boosting stars in opener

With legalized gambling expanding state by

Rodgers or Mack? Book boosting stars in opener

With legalized gambling expanding state by state, sportsbooks are pulling out all the stops to catch the attention of the 38 million fans expected to bet on NFL games this season, according to a report by the American Gaming Association.

That effort begins in earnest with Thursday night’s regular-season opener between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

While most books have the Bears around a field goal favorite at home, DraftKings is offering “Boosts” on several individual performances.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 16-5 all-time against the Bears, with a passer rating over 100 and a 45-10 TD-to-INT ratio. DraftKings has boosted his odds of throwing at least four touchdowns on Thursday from +800 to +850 as Rodgers — who did not play during the preseason — makes his debut in new coach Matt LaFleur’s offense.

Rodgers was knocked out of last season’s opener against Chicago, only to return and lead Green Bay from a 20-0 deficit to a 24-23 victory. However, the Bears returned the favor by sacking Rodgers five times in a 24-17 victory in the second meeting.

DraftKings is offering a boost from +500 to +545 that Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack drops the 35-year-old quarterback at least two times. This caveat? Chicago also must win.

Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught 13 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown in the two games against the Bears last season. DraftKings is offering a boost from +900 to +1010 that Adams scores the first touchdown in a Green Bay victory.

PointsBet, which is offering -105 odds on all NFL games this season, is also offering numerous prop bets on individual performances Thursday night. That includes -170 on Rodgers throwing for more yards than Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (+126), and -264 that Adams has more receiving yards than Chicago’s Allen Robinson (+188).

It’s a critical opener for both teams, with the Bears (+900 by DraftKings) and Packers (+1000) both among the top five bets on DraftKings to emerge as the NFC champion.

PointsBet is offering a +900 bet on there being overtime, versus -2500 that the game ends in regulation. And in a game between teams expected to light up the scoreboard this season, the book is offering a +310 bet that there will be a scoreless quarter.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Raiders plan to suspend WR Brown

Report: Raiders plan to suspend WR Brown

The Oakland Raiders

Report: Raiders plan to suspend WR Brown

The Oakland Raiders plan to suspend wideout Antonio Brown after he “got into it” with general manager Mike Mayock, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Mayock didn’t confirm the reports.

“Short and sweet, Antonio Brown is not in the building today,” Mayock said. “He won’t be practicing. I don’t have any more information for you right now. When I have some and it becomes appropriate, you guys will all get it but that’s it for today.”

Their exchange occurred Wednesday after Brown went on Instagram and posted a letter he received from Mayock detailing the $53,950 in fines he accrued while missing time in training camp.

Brown wasn’t pleased with the letter, judging by his response. “When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now devil is a lie,” he wrote in the caption. “Everyone got to pay this year so we clear.”

Should the Raiders suspend Brown for conduct detrimental to the team, they could make a case that the guarantees in Brown’s contract should be voided. His contract calls for about $30 million of guaranteed money.

Brown, 31, missed time during the preseason while dealing with blistering feet as a result of a frostbite mishap during cryogenic therapy as well as grievances involving his helmet.

The Raiders open the season Monday night at home against the Denver Broncos.

The Raiders acquired the seven-time Pro Bowl selection from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a trade in March and later signed him to a three-year, $50.125 million contract.

Brown caught at least 100 passes and exceeded 1,200 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons with the Steelers. He appeared in 130 games with Pittsburgh from 2010-18, catching 837 passes for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Eagles WR Jackson out two weeks

Report: Eagles WR Jackson out two weeks

Report: Eagles WR Jackson out two weeks

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is expected to miss two weeks because of an abdominal strain, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Jackson opted against one doctor’s recommendation of surgery, which would have kept Jackson on the sideline for about six weeks, according to an ESPN source.

The 32-year-old Jackson was injured in the first half of Sunday’s loss at the Atlanta Falcons. He did not make a catch in that game after snagging eight passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening victory over the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles brought back Jackson via trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March. A second-round pick by Philadelphia in 2008, Jackson spent six years with the Eagles (2008-13), catching 356 passes for 6,117 yards and 32 touchdowns in 87 games.

Philadelphia wide receiver Alshon Jeffery could also miss Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions after leaving last week’s game with a calf injury.

–Field Level Media

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Saints, WR Thomas discussing long-term deal

Saints, WR Thomas discussing long-term deal

Saints, WR Thomas discussing long-term deal

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is headed for paydirt, one way or another.

General manager Mickey Loomis said on Mad Dog Sports Radio that the Saints and Thomas have begun talks geared toward a long-term deal. Thomas is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

“We’ve had some conversations, and I like keeping that close to the vest until there’s something to report, but look, we love what Mike’s done for us,” Loomis said. “He’s a fantastic player, one of the best at his position in the league, and hopefully we can keep him a Saint for a long time as well.”

ESPN reported Tuesday that negotiations with Thomas are “progressing,” and that the Saints are “comfortable” with making Thomas the highest-paid receiver in the NFL.

Thomas had 125 receptions for 1,405 yards in 2018, when he was a first-team All-Pro selection.

The Saints recently agreed to a three-year deal with defensive end Cam Jordan, but locking up Thomas might be pushed into the 2020 offseason.

If the two sides are far apart on value, Thomas is expected to be given the franchise tag. The tag value for 2019 was $16.7 million.

Thomas’ four-year deal signed as a second-round pick out of Ohio State calls for him to be paid $1.15 million in salary in 2019.

–Field Level Media

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Well-traveled QB McCown announces retirement

Well-traveled QB McCown announces retirement

Josh McCown, whose 17-year NFL career spanned 10

Well-traveled QB McCown announces retirement

Josh McCown, whose 17-year NFL career spanned 10 teams, announced his retirement Monday.

His longest tenure with any franchise was four seasons, that being with the Arizona Cardinals, who drafted McCown in the third round of the 2002 draft.

He started 22 games for the Cardinals, the most he had in any of his NFL stops.

“But looking back, I’m proud of how my career has gone,” he wrote at The Players’ Tribune website. “I don’t shy away from the journeyman label. I embrace it, full force.

“Because it’s been one heck of a journey.”

McCown played in 99 games (76 starts) across 16 seasons, completing 1,581 of 2,628 passes for 17,707 yards, with 98 touchdowns and 82 interceptions.

McCown, who turns 40 on July 4, spent the past two seasons with the New York Jets, serving as the starter in 2017. He appeared in four games (three starts) last season, serving as a backup to rookie Sam Darnold.

McCown’s career also took him to the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns.

“At the end of the day, no matter what team I was on, I tried to serve it to the best of my ability, and I tried to influence my team in a positive manner. I hope I did that,” McCown wrote.

“And I made sure that when my number was called, I was prepared, and I gave it everything I had, every time. I may not have turned out to be the franchise quarterback I set out to be back at Cardinals rookie camp, but I’m extremely proud of the career I had.”

McCown has done analyst work for ESPN and wrote that he plans to do more of that, as well as coach his two sons, who are high school quarterbacks.

–Field Level Media

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Packers claim TE Roberts off waivers from Lions

Packers claim TE Roberts off waivers from Lions

The Green Bay Packers claimed tight end

Packers claim TE Roberts off waivers from Lions

The Green Bay Packers claimed tight end Michael Roberts off waivers from the Detroit Lions on Monday, according to multiple reports.

The Lions released Roberts on Friday after his trade to the New England Patriots for a 2020 seventh-round pick was rescinded due to a failed physical. New England was expected to have interest in claiming Roberts, but Green Bay had a higher waiver priority.

Roberts, 25, was a fourth-round pick out of Toledo in 2017 after catching 13 touchdowns as a senior. The 25-year-old has 13 receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns in 23 NFL games, with 48 yards and two scores coming in one game last season (at Miami).

He’ll join a Packers tight end group that includes veterans Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis and third-round rookie Jace Sternberger.

New England has been searching to bolster the position since the retirement of Rob Gronkowski earlier this year.

–Field Level Media

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Lions release RB Anderson, add Perkins

Lions release RB Anderson, add Perkins

The Detroit Lions released veteran running back C.J.

Lions release RB Anderson, add Perkins

The Detroit Lions released veteran running back C.J. Anderson on Tuesday, clearing a roster spot after they claimed running back Paul Perkins off waivers from the New York Giants.

The team also signed quarterback Jeff Driskel and released veteran Josh Johnson, who had signed with the Lions during preseason.

Anderson, 28, had 16 carries for 43 yards through two games with Detroit, rotating in behind starter Kerryon Johnson. He had gained 299 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries in two games with the Los Angeles Rams late last season, in addition to 189 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries during the team’s run to the Super Bowl.

A Pro Bowler in 2014 with the Denver Broncos, Anderson also spent time with the Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders in 2018.

Perkins, 24, was waived by the Giants on Monday after they claimed tight end Kaden Smith off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers.

A fifth-round pick in 2016, Perkins missed all of the 2018 campaign due to a torn pectoral muscle, and he was not active through the first two weeks of this season. In 25 career games (five starts) with the Giants, he totaled 153 carries for 546 yards, along with 23 catches for 208 yards.

Driskel, 26, was released by the Cincinnati Bengals with an injury settlement last week. He started five games as a rookie while filling in for Andy Dalton in 2018, going 1-4 while throwing for 1,003 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.

Johnson, 33, was active as Matthew Stafford’s backup for the first two games, but he did not take the field. He has played for five different teams since entering the league as a fifth-round pick in 2008.

–Field Level Media

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QB Rodgers donates helmets to hometown high schools

QB Rodgers donates helmets to hometown high schools

Aaron

QB Rodgers donates helmets to hometown high schools

Aaron Rodgers donated state-of-the-art helmets to three Northerrn California high schools in an area devastated by forest fires last fall.

Rodgers is from Chico, Calif., and played at Pleasant Valley High in the city. In all, the Green Bay Packers quarterback gifted 375 helmets to Pleasant Valley, Chico High and Paradise High.

The schools received the VICIS ZERO1 model of helmets, which the Sacramento Bee reported is a top performer in NFL annual safety tests. Rodgers is an investor in the manufacturer.

The donation was much appreciated.

“I don’t know if anybody outside of Paradise and Butte County can truly understand what football means to helping us to feel normal again,” Paradise coach Rick Prinz told the Sacramento Bee. “We’re grateful for Aaron’s donation.

“I’ve been the head coach now for eight years and not one time have I ever had to ask Aaron for anything. He calls or texts every year and says, ‘Coach, here is what I would like to do. Is this OK?’ He does so much for our school and community that most people have no idea.”

The Camp Fire, as it was named, burned for 17 days in Butte County last November, causing at least 85 deaths and spreading through almost 240 square miles. It caused $16.5 billion in damage.

Rodgers and the Packers open the 2019 season Thursday night against the Chicago Bears.

–Field Level Media

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World No. 3 Johnson recovering from knee surgery

World No. 3 Johnson recovering from knee surgery

World No. 3 Johnson recovering from knee surgery

Dustin Johnson had arthroscopic surgery Thursday to repair cartilage damage in his left knee.

Johnson’s agent said the world’s No. 3-ranked player was resting comfortably and expected to make a full recovery before returning to the PGA Tour this fall.

The surgery was performed in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by Dr. George Caldwell. Johnson had a similar procedure on his right knee in December 2011 and returned to action in mid-January 2012.

Johnson, 35, won his 20th PGA Tour title in 2019 at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. The 2016 U.S. Open champion was runner-up at this year’s Masters and PGA Championship.

He struggled down the stretch this season with zero top-10 finishes in his past eight starts. Johnson tied for last in the 30-man field at the Tour Championship in his most recent start.

–Field Level Media

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Bell ready to carry load for Jets against Bills

Bell ready to carry load for Jets against Bills

Bell ready to carry load for Jets against Bills

Le’Veon Bell hasn’t played in an NFL game in nearly 20 months so his body feels fresh and he craves a heavy workload.

Bell has passed on the message to coach Adam Gase that he is ready to see a lot of the football when he makes his New York Jets’ debut on Sunday against the visiting Buffalo Bills.

Bell’s words to Gase were “don’t hold back” and the 27-year-old expects the play caller to heed the advice in the opener.

“I can carry 50 (times) if you ask me,” Bell told reporters after Wednesday’s practice. “When I say, ‘Don’t hold back,’ I mean literally that. I don’t want to go out there and try to sprinkle me in or anything like that. I’m ready to play football.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment. A lot of people are excited to see me play. Quadruple that, and that’s how I feel.”

Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets in the offseason. He refused to sign the franchise tender of $14.5 million with Pittsburgh last season and ended up sitting out the entire season.

Bell rushed for 5,336 yards and 35 touchdowns and caught 312 passes for 2,660 yards and seven scores during five seasons with Pittsburgh.

“I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong,” Bell said. “I’m not trying to prove the Steelers wrong. Everybody is trying to format me with the Steelers. I’m not talking about the Steelers anymore. I’m done talking about the Steelers. I want to worry about the Bills, and I want to worry about the Jets. That’s it.”

Bell and first-year coach Gase are trying to ignite a Jets squad that went 4-12 last season and missed the playoffs for the eighth straight campaign.

Second-year quarterback Sam Darnold displayed promise last season by passing for 2,865 yards and 17 touchdowns. But he also tossed 15 interceptions, tied for second most in the NFL.

Darnold is hoping to make strides this season under the tutelage of Gase.

“I think we’re going to do some fun things out there with all the tempo and all the different things we can do,” Darnold told reporters. “It’ll be fun. It will be fun to watch us and hopefully we are going to put up a lot of points.”

The Bills, who went 6-10 last season, also have a second-year quarterback in Josh Allen and he was intercepted 12 times last season while passing for 2,074 yards and 10 touchdowns. Allen also rushed for eight scores.

“The smartest play is the best play,” Allen said Wednesday. “The job of the quarterback is to get the ball to the playmakers and let them make plays.”

The Bills’ running back duties will be split up after the recent release of LeSean McCoy. Veteran Frank Gore, versatile T.J. Yeldon and third-round draft pick Devin Singletary will all be involved in the attack.

“Didn’t really expect it,” Singletary told reporters of the Bills cutting McCoy. “But that’s part of the business and what comes with it. It shows they believe in me, so now it’s time to see how it turns out. They believe in me, I believe in myself, so the sky is the limit and we’ll go from here.”

The Buffalo defense should get a lift from rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the ninth overall pick of the 2019 draft. Solid safety Jordan Poyer had four interceptions last season.

New York added linebacker C.J. Mosley to a defensive core led by standout safety Jamal Adams. The Jets also selected nose tackle Quinnen Williams with the third overall choice in the 2019 draft.

–Field Level Media

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Exclusive: Aaron Rodgers has new MVP ‘Mahomie’ in State Farm ads

Exclusive: Aaron Rodgers has new MVP 'Mahomie' in State Farm ads

Exclusive: Aaron Rodgers has new MVP ‘Mahomie’ in State Farm ads

Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers on the same team?

State Farm will release a new series of commercials — three, 30-second spots — two of which bring reigning NFL MVP Mahomes into the player-agent spat between Rodgers and his make-believe player rep Gabe Gabriel. The spots are a continuation of the plotline established in the 2018 ads which also includes a State Farm agent Rodgers won’t leave home without.

Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers open the season Thursday against the Chicago Bears, the opening game of the 2019 regular season and the kickoff of NFL 100, a yearlong celebration of the history of football and its contributors. The Kansas City Chiefs open Sunday in Jacksonville.

Rodgers, a two-time MVP, and Mahomes will be featured in State Farm’s “Tables Have Turned” ad Thursday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8qjkcihNCU&feature=youtu.be). In the spot, the ever-envious Gabriel attempts to make Rodgers jealous by introducing his hotshot client, Mahomes.

Rodgers, 35, and Mahomes, 23, greet one another and announce “We’re friends.”

“I’m pumped to be working with State Farm and Aaron,” Mahomes said of the new TV spots.

State Farm has utilized Rodgers’ Green Bay teammates in past commercials, including fly-swatting linebacker Clay Matthews and 337-pound defensive lineman B.J. Raji. In their NBA campaign, State Farm teamed former Houston Rockets teammates Chris Paul and James Harden. Paul was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason.

Coming out of Texas Tech in 2017, Mahomes said Rodgers is the player he modeled his style of play after, watching all of Rodgers’ games at Cal to get a better grasp for the traits that now define his excellence.

Mahomes won the 2018 NFL MVP Award in his first full season as a starting quarterback with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Rodgers was voted MVP following the 2011 and 2014 seasons. Thursday’s game at Chicago begins Rodgers’ 15th NFL season.

Forbes estimated Rodgers could earn $90 million in 2019 in combined salary and endorsements. In addition to State Farm, which Forbes labeled one of the richest endorsement deals in the NFL, Rodgers is a pitchman for Adidas, IZOD and Sharpie.

–Field Level Media

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Rams lock up TE Higbee through 2023

Rams lock up TE Higbee through 2023

Rams lock up TE Higbee through 2023

The Los Angeles Rams and tight end Tyler Higbee agreed to terms Thursday on a four-year extension through 2023.

The deal has a base value of $31 million (more than $36 million with incentives) and includes $15 million in guarantees, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.

Higbee, 26, was entering the final year of his four-year, $2.9 million rookie contract signed in 2016.

A fourth-round pick in 2016 out of Western Kentucky, Higbee has played in all 48 games (39 starts) and caught 60 passes for 672 yards and four touchdowns over the last three seasons.

Higbee caught 24 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns for the NFC champions in 2018, adding six receptions for 55 yards and a score in the postseason.

–Field Level Media

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Colts’ Vinatieri trying to clear ‘demons,’ didn’t consider retiring

Colts' Vinatieri trying to clear 'demons,' didn't consider retiring

Colts’ Vinatieri trying to clear ‘demons,’ didn’t consider retiring

Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is working to clear the “demons” from his head amid a rocky stretch, but he told reporters Tuesday he has not considered retiring, contrary to speculation in recent days.

Speculation about his possible retirement mounted after Sunday’s game — in which Vinatieri missed two extra points — when the kicker declined to speak to the media but said they would “hear from me” on Monday, normally the players’ off-day. The 46-year-old said Tuesday that conclusions drawn from the interaction were incorrect.

“Quite frankly, for two decades, we’ve always had open locker rooms on a Monday, and granted our schedule has changed now as of last year,” Vinatieri said. “So when I walked out saying I’ll talk to you guys on Monday, I just needed a little bit more time. Like I said, none of us should assume stuff.

“… I want some time to clear my mind. All the nasty, crazy rumors then got out there.”

Instead, the 24th-year veteran is focused on shaking his cold streak, which includes seven missed kicks in his last three games, dating back to January.

“I’m going to work a lot this week to get those demons out so I can go clear-headed, step on the field and just do my job,” Vinatieri said. “I think anybody that has a bad game, or, I don’t know, I guess if you go out golfing and you hook a couple balls, are you thinking about it until you get it figured out?

“… I’ll spend some time this week working those out.”

Vinatieri, who turns 47 in December, missed two field goals — including a 29-yarder — and an extra point in the season-opening overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He also missed a 23-yard field goal and an extra point in the Colts’ divisional playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in January.

Head coach Frank Reich has repeatedly supported Vinatieri, telling reporters on Monday, “Adam is our kicker. We have zero concern. He’s not only our kicker, he’s a key leader on our team.”

Vinatieri told reporters he is “plenty healthy” and has been watching film closely as he tries to fix his issues.

The Colts (2-0) host the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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Well-traveled QB McCown retires, joins ESPN

Well-traveled QB McCown retires, joins ESPN

Josh McCown, whose 17-year NFL career spanned

Well-traveled QB McCown retires, joins ESPN

Josh McCown, whose 17-year NFL career spanned 10 teams, announced his retirement Monday.

His longest tenure with any franchise was four seasons, that being with the Arizona Cardinals, who drafted McCown in the third round of the 2002 draft.

He started 22 games for the Cardinals, the most he had in any of his NFL stops.

“But looking back, I’m proud of how my career has gone,” he wrote at The Players’ Tribune website. “I don’t shy away from the journeyman label. I embrace it, full force.

“Because it’s been one heck of a journey.”

The journey now takes him to ESPN, where he will join the network as an NFL analyst, starting Wednesday, when he will appear on multiple shows.

“Josh knows the game and is widely respected throughout the league,” ESPN vice president for NFL studio shows Seth Markman said in a statement. “Every quarterback room he was in as a player, he made better. Now we’re excited to welcome him to ESPN.”

McCown played in 99 games (76 starts) across 16 seasons, completing 1,581 of 2,628 passes for 17,707 yards, with 98 touchdowns and 82 interceptions.

McCown, who turns 40 on July 4, spent the past two seasons with the New York Jets, serving as the starter in 2017. He appeared in four games (three starts) last season, serving as a backup to rookie Sam Darnold.

McCown’s career also took him to the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns.

“At the end of the day, no matter what team I was on, I tried to serve it to the best of my ability, and I tried to influence my team in a positive manner. I hope I did that,” McCown wrote.

“And I made sure that when my number was called, I was prepared, and I gave it everything I had, every time. I may not have turned out to be the franchise quarterback I set out to be back at Cardinals rookie camp, but I’m extremely proud of the career I had.”

–Field Level Media

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Woodland rises to No. 12 in world rankings after U.S. Open win

Woodland rises to No. 12 in world rankings after U.S. Open win

Woodland rises to No. 12 in world rankings after U.S. Open win

With his first major championship win on Sunday at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Gary Woodland moved up to a career-best No. 12 in the world golf rankings.

Woodland beat out two-time defending champion and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka by three shots at the U.S. Open, carding a final-round 69 for a 13-under 271 total to become just the fourth player in history to record four sub-par rounds en route to hoisting the trophy.

Woodland climbed 13 spots after his win at Pebble Beach. He started the week ranked No. 25.

“I’ve worked hard my whole life. I’ve been surrounded by amazing people and I always just wanted to be successful. I didn’t know what it was, what I was going to do. I fell in love with golf, and it’s transcended to today,” Woodland said.

“People probably growing up said the U.S. Open wouldn’t suit me, because I’m a long hitter, I’m a bomber. Coming to Pebble Beach, on top of that, it’s a shorter golf course. And I went out and proved, I think to everybody else, what I always believed — that I’m pretty good.”

Woodland also rose from ninth to fifth in the FedEx Cup standings; Matt Kuchar remained in first place.

Koepka, who shot 68 on Sunday to finish alone in second place, remains the world’s No. 1 player for the 13th straight week while Dustin Johnson, who finished tied for 35th, stays at No. 2.

There was some minor shuffling among the top 10.

England’s Justin Rose, who finished tied for third at Pebble Beach, moved up to No. 3 while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy dropped to No. 4 after finishing tied for ninth place. Tiger Woods, who won the 2000 championship at Pebble Beach by a record 15 strokes with a 12-under 272 total, remains No. 5.

Flip-flopping the final two spots in the top 10 are Xander Schauffele, who moved to No. 9 after finishing tied for third on Sunday, and Bryson DeChambeau, who dropped a spot to No. 10 with a T-35 finish.

–Field Level Media

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Koepka early Open favorite

Koepka early Open favorite

Brooks Koepka

Koepka early Open favorite

Brooks Koepka fell short in his attempt to win his third consecutive U.S. Open on Sunday, but the four-time major champion has already been installed as the early favorite to win next month’s Open Championship in Northern Ireland.

PointsBet listed Koepka at 9/1 and FanDuel at 7/1, slightly ahead of Rory McIlroy (10/1 and 8.5/1), who will be an overwhelming crowd favorite as he seeks to win The Open in his home country. Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods were all listed at 12/1 by PointsBet on Monday, while FanDuel had Woods at 9.5/1 and the other two at 12/1.

Gary Woodland held off Koepka at Pebble Beach to claim his first major championship and rise to No. 12 in the world rankings, but he is still only 66/1 by PointsBet.

The 148th Open Championship will be held at Royal Portrush July 18-21.

Portrush native Graeme McDowell secured his entry into the event at the RBC Canadian Open earlier this month. Despite posting a solid T16 finish at the U.S. Open, McDowell is still 42/1 by FanDuel while PointsBet isn’t yet offering a future wager on the 39-year-old.

However, PointsBet is offering 5,000/1 odds on 1995 Open champion John Daly.

The Open odds (via PointsBet)

Brooks Koepka, +900

Rory McIlroy, +1000

Dustin Johnson, +1200

Jordan Spieth, +1200

Tiger Woods, +1200

Justin Rose, +1600

Francesco Molinari, +1800

Jon Rahm, +2000

Tommy Fleetwood, +2200

Rickie Fowler, +2500

Justin Thomas, +2500

Xander Schauffele, +2500

Jason Day, +2800

Bryson DeChambeau, +2800

Tony Finau, +3000

Patrick Cantlay, +3000

Sergio Garcia, +3300

Hideki Matsuyama, +3500

Henrik Stenson, +4000

Alex Noren, +4000

Paul Casey, +4000

Phil Mickelson, +4000

Adam Scott, +4000

Patrick Reed, +5000

Louis Oosthuizen, +5000

Branden Grace, +5000

Marc Leishman, +5000

Matt Kuchar, +5000

Ian Poulter, +6000

Matt Wallace, +6000

Tyrrell Hatton, +6600

Matthew Fitzpatrick, +6600

Bubba Watson, +6600

Shane Lowry, +6600

Gary Woodland, +6600

Webb Simpson, +8000

Paul Dunne, +8000

Brandt Snedeker, +8000

Danny Willett, +8000

Russell Knox, +8000

Rafael Cabrera Bello, +8000

Zach Johnson, +8000

Thomas Pieters, +8000

Eddie Pepperell, +9000

Chris Wood, +10000

Jimmy Walker, +10000

Kevin Chappell, +10000

Thorbjorn Olesen, +10000

Ryan Fox, +10000

Kevin Kisner, +10000

Haotong Li, +10000

Cameron Smith, +10000

Byeong Hun An, +12500

Emiliano Grillo, +12500

Ryan Moore, +12500

Brian Harman, +12500

Luke List, +12500

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, +12500

Beau Hossler, +12500

Daniel Berger, +15000

Charl Schwartzel, +15000

Kevin Na, +15000

Jason Dufner, +15000

Keegan Bradley, +15000

Padraig Harrington, +15000

Joost Luiten, +15000

Alexander Levy, +15000

Peter Uihlein, +15000

Dylan Frittelli, +15000

Bernd Wiesberger, +15000

Si Woo Kim, +15000

Kyle Stanley, +15000

Charley Hoffman, +15000

Alexander Bjork, +17500

Hudson Swafford, +17500

Austin Cook, +20000

Ross Fisher, +20000

Russell Henley, +20000

Jorge Campillo, +20000

Charles Howell, +20000

Ernie Els, +20000

Jeunghun Wang, +20000

Danny Lee, +20000

Grayson Murray, +20000

Satoshi Kodaira, +25000

Stewart Cink, +25000

Mikko Korhonen, +25000

Paul Lawrie, +25000

Shubhankar Sharma, +25000

Todd Hamilton, +50000

Darren Clarke, +50000

Mark Calcavecchia, +50000

David Duval, +50000

Tom Lehman, +50000

John Daly, +50000

–Field Level Media

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Dolphins GM: Trying to build ‘long-term winner’

Dolphins GM: Trying to build 'long-term winner'

A day after trading

Dolphins GM: Trying to build ‘long-term winner’

A day after trading away a former first-round pick for the second time in three weeks, Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier met the media Tuesday and discussed the franchise’s broader plan.

“We know as the team was built right now, it wasn’t going to win a Super Bowl, much less compete for a playoff spot,” Grier said. “Again, we’re trying to build a team that’s going to win right now and do it, a long-term winner and bring a championship here hopefully to South Florida.”

Grier’s comments, his first in public since post-draft in April, came a day after 2018 first-round defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a package including a 2020 first-round pick. On Aug. 31, the Dolphins dealt left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans for a package including two first-round picks and a second-rounder.

Both players were previously expected to be long-term pillars for the Dolphins. Grier indicated Tuesday that the plan was not to deal either player, until circumstances changed.

“I would say very unexpected as far as the Laremy and Minkah situations,” he said. “You can’t prepare for that. The opportunities as well were kind of unique, with a little bit of a historic haul for (Tunsil) and (wide receiver) Kenny (Stills), what we’re getting.”

“Multiple, multiple times we talked and kept telling (the Texans) no and what it would take (to get Tunsil), and they came and offered it,” Grier added. “… Laremy walked in my office and saw it on the board and said, ‘I would trade me for that.’ We were not trying to do it.”

Fitzpatrick’s trade came after he requested to be dealt, citing his lack of a defined position in the defense. Multiple reports have said other players are seeking trades amid the Dolphins’ 0-2 start, in which they’ve been outscored 102-10, though Grier said he has not heard any other requests.

“With Minkah, it’s just one of those things the player expressed that it may be time for him to change,” Grier said. “We tried to make it work — myself, (head coach) Brian (Flores), (owner) Steve (Ross) had multiple conversations with him about saying we wanted him to be here, he was a core piece. The kid felt it was time for him to move.”

Miami has stockpiled five first-round picks over the next two years, including three in 2020, in addition to extra picks in the second- and third-rounds in 2020 and the second round in 2021. Those assets give the team massive flexibility, Grier said.

“We can do anything we want, whether it’s free agency or draft,” he said. “We’ve positioned ourselves, we think, to do anything or get whatever player we feel that will help us as soon as possible.”

Grier is in his first year as the top personnel decision-maker with the Dolphins, although he has held the general manager since 2016 and is in his 20th year with the franchise in a variety of personnel positions.

He declined to put a timeline on when the rebuilding process will begin to bear fruit, but sounded like he expects results sooner than later.

“We positioned ourselves to where we think the organization will be in a good place here shortly,” Grier said. “How long that takes? … We’ll be aggressive free agency. We’re not going to sit back and not do anything, we’re going to be very proactive and try to get this turned quickly.”

–Field Level Media

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Depleted Colts, Chargers ready for opener

Depleted Colts, Chargers ready for opener

For the Indianapolis Colts and Los

Depleted Colts, Chargers ready for opener

For the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday’s Week 1 matchup in Carson, Calif., is more notable for who’s not there than who is.

Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement on Aug. 24 left a 6-foot-4, 240-pound hole under center for Indianapolis.

Melvin Gordon’s continued holdout has left Los Angeles looking to replace a highly-skilled but injury-prone running back that provides critical balance to a pass-first attack.

The late Dean Smith, the legendary North Carolina basketball coach, once said you can always play one great game without a key player. But can either team unearth the secret to making up for the potentially permanent absence of a star?

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn entertained talk about Gordon only to a point at his Wednesday availability.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to talk about the Melvin Gordon situation, but I love Melvin Gordon,” Lynn told reporters. “We’re definitely a better team with Melvin, but he’s not here right now. I have to get these guys ready to play this team, because this is a very talented team coming in here Sunday.”

Not as talented now as the Colts were last month, before Luck grew tired of the cycle of injuries and rehabilitation. A shoulder injury knocked him out for all of the 2017 season, and ankle and calf injuries kept him on the sideline throughout this preseason before he retired.

Luck’s last year was his best. He won Comeback Player of the Year after completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 4,593 yards with 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, helping the Colts earn a wild-card spot and reach the AFC divisional round.

Indianapolis will turn to Jacoby Brissett, who started 15 games for it two years ago when Luck was shelved. Brissett, who inked a two-year, $30 million extension on Monday, is backed up by Brian Hoyer. He was signed on Monday after being released by New England and is throwing himself into learning the playbook quickly.

“I was telling Jacoby it’s like, imagine studying Spanish for four years in college and then the last week before finals they’re like, ‘All right, here’s French. Good luck. Here’s the final exams on Sunday,'” Hoyer said. “So I’m just trying to figure it out.”

That’s not a problem for Los Angeles. Philip Rivers, 37, is aging very well, proven by a 2018 in which he threw for 4,308 yards and 32 touchdowns in a 12-4 season that saw the Chargers win an AFC wild-card game in Baltimore before bowing out at New England.

Rivers’ receiving corps — Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and tight end Hunter Henry, a red-zone menace when he can stay healthy — can scare any defense. But the absence of Gordon means the combination of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson will have to provide a semblance of a running attack that can keep Rivers from having to throw 35 or 40 times to win a game.

A bigger worry for Lynn is the absence of left tackle Russell Okung, who will miss the first six games with a pulmonary embolism that was discovered in June.

“They go into this game without Andrew Luck, but I go into this game without one of the best left tackles in the game,” Lynn said.

The Chargers are also without safety Derwin James, who earned first-team All-Pro honors as a rookie, for the first few months of the season due to a foot fracture.

–Field Level Media

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